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I Need a 'C-M-Y-What' Logo?
Monday, September 18, 2006
Once you have created your logo in RBG colors, you also need to create it in CMYK colors.

What is CMYK?
CMYK is the 4-color process printing standard: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Many printed items, including newspapers and magazines, use this 4-color process. For instance, if a magazine runs a story about your product, you'll need to supply a resolution independent logo file that is specified with CMYK colors (dot-based for printing), not RGB colors (light-based for computer monitors).

If you do not supply the magazine with a CMYK logo file, you have much less control over how the colors in your logo actually print. If needing this control is no big deal to you, consider that many RGB colors do not exist in the CMYK realm. This is especially true if your RBG logo contains "hot" and "electric" hues. Do I have your attention now?

How do I convert my RGB logo to a CMYK logo?
Converting your RGB logo to a CMYK logo may be simple and may be complicated. It depends upon the logo image and the combination of colors. Essentially, CMYK flattens the vitality of RGB images. It does so by messing with black, grays and color saturation. To see an example of this, open up a colorful photograph in Photoshop. Then take the following steps: Image > Mode > CMYK color.

This is a "simulated" CMYK color mode. Don't for a second believe that what you are seeing is the same thing that will print. The reason that CMYK mode exists in Photoshop is so that you can make adjustments to CMYK values, as well as Photoshop's many other features. The fact of the matter is, when you switch over to CMYK mode, you might as well be half-blind. Your computer monitor cannot reproduce the CMYK color space effectively. Graphic designers like myself use expensive swatch books to choose CMYK values. Talk about highway robbery, I've got a collection of swatch books that's around $800 bucks. These are a must have for graphic designers.

How to choose CMYK colors that match your logo's RGB colors
The Logo Orange website has an online swatch book. Do read the introduction paragraph, where they basically say: Use at your own risk. But hey, this is as good as it's going to get if you cannot invest in printed swatch books: View Color Code Matching Chart

Hopefully your logo is fairly simple, such as a combination of two or three colors. Jot down your logo's matching CMYK values that you find on this website. Next, I'll show you how to convert your RGB logo into a CMYK logo in two applications: Photoshop and Illustrator.

The first step, as I mentioned already is to change color modes (Photoshop's default color mode is RGB).

Image > Mode > CMYK color

Hopefully your logo is on layered files. If it is already plastered onto a white background, and you cannot select the type or image independent of selecting the background, you are SOL. All that you can do at this point is to resave your Photoshop file. Since you have converted into the CMYK color space, when you resave this file, it will be a genuine CMYK file.

If you can select your logo elements independent of the background, do so and apply the CMYK values that you jotted down from the Color Mode Matching Chart website. Be sure to name this new file in an informational manner such as, My_logo_CMYK.psd

The first step, just like in Photoshop is to change color modes (Illustrator's default color mode is RGB).

File > Document Color Mode > CMYK color

Now you can select your logo's elements and apply the CMYK values that you previously jotted down. What may confuse you, but should not, is that once you convert over to the CMYK color space, both Photoshop and Illustrator translate your RGB colors into CMYK colors. The question is, can you trust this conversion? I never do. This is why I had you jot down your logo's corresponding CMYK colors from the online swatch book. Apply these corresponding CMYK colors to your logo elements now. Then, 'Save As' this file with a name like: My_logo_CMYK.ai
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